Characterizing arguments as racist - OK? If not, it should be

Yes, it was just an example. If someone claims an argument is racist and explains why, it only takes one reply post to either explain why it’s not or to apologize for being accidentally racist. It doesn’t have to lead to any sort of derailment of the thread.

Not to mention that the alternative - people being allowed to spew racist arguments unchallenged all over the board - is much, much worse. We should always call out racism when we see it.

But that gets you back to UltraVires’ point.

These days, and on this MB in particular, racism is a pretty loaded, hot-button issue.

Your suggestion that it can be dealt with with “one reply post” is not realistic. Once introduced into a thread, it’s automatically a high stakes issue that will be fought over at length.

Only to those who are overly sensitive and not willing to examine their own preconceptions.

Thanks! I wasn’t sure how to respond, but this sums it up pretty well. If I’m unintentionally racist, I want to know it so I can correct it. If I’m actually racist (but don’t believe that), I will push back on people telling me that, so that I don’t have to do any self-analysis, and I could see that leading to a hijack.

And there are times when the “pushback” is because the accusation is without merit.

“It’s dark outside”

“That’s racist!”

I’m not saying that anything I’ve seen has been quite that blatant or far fetched, I used a blatantly far fetched example so that there is no real question on whether there is merit to the claim in my example.

There are times when an accusation of racist rhetoric have been, IMHO, incorrect, and maybe that could hijack a thread, but it could also easily spawn a new thread on whether or not a particular way of thinking is actually racist, which could be informative to all parties.

There’s an implied premise here, that all accusations of racism are valid, since these are the only situations you deal with here. But there’s also a possibility that the accusations are not valid, and in that case the accusee would also be motivated to push back.

Though the real truth is that IME most accusations of racism are not so much valid or invalid as they are semantic, i.e. heavily based on how one defines racism. As such, their inherent interest is mostly to those whose ideology is heavily dogmatic, but they can also impact others in a milieu where the audience is heavily dogmatic (e.g. here).

This hasn’t been my experience here, but I guess our experience differs.

Only to the extent that any accusation of anything depends on how you define that thing. Your “dogma” is other folks’ “common sense.” But maybe you’d care to define “dogmatic” before accusing others of having a heavily dogmatic ideology?

In this context, it means that anything is automatically bad or wrong simply by virtue of having the term “racist” applied to it (the dogma being “racist = bad”). This enables the semantic disputes, since the appelation becomes the crux of the issue rather than consideration of the underlying propriety or logic.

Oh, cool! Then nobody here is dogmatic.

Should that be something done in the thread, or should it be taken to a new topic to avoid the hijack?

This, of course, is 100% what should happen, in the same way that it should happen if any other criticism of an argument is invalid. The only difference is that some people have the mistaken belief (evinced here in this thread) that “Your argument is racist” is indistinguishable from “You are an irredeemable racist who should be consigned to the Bog of Eternal Stench,” and they get super freaked out and defend themselves to the death.

Instead, they should hear “your argument is racist” and believe it means “your argument is racist,” and consider as non-defensively as they can whether there’s any truth to that criticism. If there is, they should take that crticism constructively and modify their position. Admitting that I’ve used a racist argument doesn’t consign me to the Bog of Eternal Stench, any more than admitting that I’ve used incorrect statistics or used a slippery slope argument does.

Quoted for truth.

Admittedly I erred here. The essence of what happened was someone said essentially “it sounds like you’re suggesting I’m a racist”, and I replied “There’s nothing low-key about it.”

I didn’t intend it as an essentialist claim “you are a racist” (which for various reasons I find unsupportable and unuseful in any context), but more like “you’re being racist right now.” That’s an eminently valid criticism, but we have to be scrupulously strategic when deploying it, because many fragile white folks can’t hear that without fully halting the conversation and making it all about the unfair besmirching of their sterling pure intentions. That’s not good for anybody.

So I need to learn to caveat what I say, like “I’m not calling you a racist, but the thing you said is a racist thing, again I do not mean you are a racist person.”

Absolutely. And another lesson for all to learn is that one may be wrong when characterizing something someone said or posted as racist, and be open to the possibility that, in a particular instance, it is not a valid criticism, and that if the person whose argument is being characterized as racist doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t necessarily make that person a “fragile white [person].”

One of the many great things about accusing people of racism is that if they deny it, then that can be characterized as “white fragility” which itself is a racist attitude. So it’s a win-win.

I once read about one of these situations in which sane people are accidently diagnosed as psychotic (I don’t think it was the Rosenhan experiment, but possibly something similar) and the subject reported that when he denied being psychotic it only reinforced the diagnosis, because as it turns out, denying being a psychotic is itself a symptom of psychosis. :slight_smile:

Can @UltraVires or @Fotheringay-Phipps give us some examples of threads in which a false accusation of racism derailed the thread? Or other examples to support their arguments?

Is your point that racism is sometimes good?

Actually, on further recollection, I think it was a TED talk in which the talker discussed the case of a guy he interacted with who had feigned some form of psychosis in order to beat the rap for some minor criminal charges and then found himself locked into a diagnosis he couldn’t shake, and was incarcerated for years and years.

And because of this, it naturally follows that psychosis doesn’t exist, which is why nobody ever talks about psychosis as a real thing anymore.